Can Tech Devices Help Us Deal with Increased COVID-19 Restrictions?

By: Lee Rickwood

January 13, 2021

I’d like it if we all started beeping, buzzing, strobing and flashing.

That’s because we’d all be using Canadian tech devices developed to reduce exposures, maintain distances, prevent contagion and help document other crucial activities that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus and stop those ever-increasing COVID-19 case numbers. Those new devices use visual and audible warnings to alert us to danger.

Yesterday’s declaration of a second provincial emergency in Ontario (along with many similar efforts across Canada and around the world) comes with a long list of new public health recommendations, as well as legislated definitions of accepted activities and strong penalties for those who do not follow the rules.

But there’s no direct mention of how some interesting Canadian tech devices could help us in our battle with the pandemic.

Facing a Safer Workplace

facedrive health band is worn on person's wristwristband

The unified hardware and software contact tracing solution called TraceSCAN was developed in partnership between Facedrive Health and the University of Waterloo. Images provided by Facedrive.

Well before this deadly second wave washed over us, a Canadian company called Facedrive was shipping its Bluetooth wearable devices to businesses in different industry sectors so that employers there could more safely manage the return-to-work process for their employees.

The wearables are part of a unified hardware and software contact tracing solution called TraceSCAN, developed through Facedrive’s Health division and the University of Waterloo.

Wristbands, wearable tags worn around the neck or pods that can be kept in the pocket are used as preventive, reactive and analytic tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 by monitoring workplace activities, worker contacts and other risk factors inherent in the business environment. When necessary, the device will alert the wearer if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case using instant notifications.

assortment of wearable wristband trackers

Companies in business sectors such as recreation, air travel, food processing, construction and others have trialed or are using the TraceSCAN devices.

TraceSCAN is an AI-powered solution for contact tracing in the workplace which can track staff exposure to COVID-19 without GPS information,” William Melek, University of Waterloo mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor, described in a release. “The technology provides a risk-based assessment of an individual’s exposure within dynamic and dense work environments. The technology enables the creation and management of safer work environments needed during this critical phase of the pandemic.”

Companies in business sectors such as recreation, air travel, food processing, construction and others have trialed or are using the TraceSCAN devices. The wireless wearable contact-tracing platform has been authorized by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), and the company is seeking FCC certification in the U.S.

And now, the new TraceSCAN V2 device has been announced, with availability expected next month. Its enhanced features are said to include beacon technology and more accurate location-sensing as well as temperature checking and other health and safety functions.

Let’s All Play Safe

Another Canadian company (listed in Canada, its HQ is in the British Virgin Islands ) has developed a suite of real-time location management services and contact tracing solutions driven by advanced, low power Bluetooth beacons and cloud-based enterprise management tools.

tracesafe monitoring device and wristband

The Tracesafe system can be used to create a kind of a geo-fence which, if broken, issues a warning signal and breach notifications. Image provided by Tracesafe.

You may have seen the system in action, as TraceSafe was the official contact tracing partner at the recent world junior hockey championships in Edmonton, ending in early January.

TraceSafe provided hockey players and team staff with TraceSafe wearable safety tech solutions using low-powered Bluetooth beacons embedded in wearable event credential tags. In addition, TraceSafe’s quarantine management wristbands let event organizers ensure that self-isolation requirements and established health and safety protocols were followed.

The Tracesafe beacon itself has a small red light that flashes if the wearer is less than two metres (just over six feet) from another person, or if the wearer is in someone else’s presence for more than 15 minutes.

workers at large urban constuction site

Among the global users of Canadian technology designed to help manage the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases it causes are Singaporean construction firms, southeast Asian tech conglomerates, and state health care officials in India and Hong Kong. Image provided by TraceSafe.

The mobile component works in concert with other platform features, including daily testing. In the event of a positive test, confidential data can be uploaded via an encrypted network to be used for contact tracing.

In the event of a required quarantine period for a contact, the wristband or a clip tag, together with a companion device back in the person’s homebase, will create a kind of a geo-fence which, if broken, issues a warning signal and breach notifications.

The wristbands provide a complete device-to-cloud solution for contact tracing, social distancing and location tracking that can quickly notify someone if they have come into close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Dennis Kwan, CEO of TraceSafe Technologies.

Can We Breathe Easier Yet?

Another Canadian firm, Kontrol Energy Corp., says it is ready to ship its COVID-19 technology to customers and distributors around the world.

Called BioCloud, Kontrol’s surface- or wall-mounted device is a real-time analyzer designed to detect airborne viruses, including SARS-COV-2, by continuously sampling air quality and triggering a silent, cloud-based alert to facility operators.

Kontrol air monitoring device

Kontrol BioCloud Industrial Unit. (CNW Group/Kontrol Energy Corporation)

The company describes its patented and proprietary detection chamber as the heart of BioCloud. The detection chamber is a consumable that needs to be replaced when it comes into contact with the SARS- CoV-2 virus, and Kontrol is launching a new service to assist customers with the disposal and recycling of the detection chamber.

Again, the Canadian government (this time, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), is assisting the development of the technology, having issued $500,000 in research and development funding.

As we near the first anniversary of the mandated shutdowns and closures that are part of our coronavirus pandemic response, and as disease and death counts caused by the virus disease continue to rise, many are questioning the efficacy and suitability of the response so far.

Yes, there is a lot of opinion and debate out there, some well-informed, some well-intentioned, some not. There’s a lot of noise if you will, but it may be that the best sounds we could hear are those triggered by Canadian technology and the many devices developed here to help us fight this deadly disease.

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hand with wristband on gives thumbs on

Wristbands, wearables and other tech devices can help in the fight against COVID-19. Tracesave image.

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